1. Business

Trigaux: Often out of spotlight, 44 biggest private Tampa Bay companies reveal their clout

is keen on in-house vocational education. Employees can learn best practices in electrical contracting in its 16,000-square-foot campus-style facility in St. Petersburg. Here, employees are taught the latest skills in handling advanced electrical rooms.
is keen on in-house vocational education. Employees can learn best practices in electrical contracting in its 16,000-square-foot campus-style facility in St. Petersburg. Here, employees are taught the latest skills in handling advanced electrical rooms.
Published Jul. 16, 2017

They are a business backbone in Tampa Bay we hear little about, at least compared to the high-profile likes of Raymond James Financial, HSN or Bloomin' Brands. Few have household-recognizable names, but a handful boast brands well-known to most.

Combined, the top 44 of them employ nearly 60,000 people, mostly in this metro area. Together, their combined revenues top $25 billion.

"They" are the major private corporations whose headquarters reside in the Tampa Bay market. They are not publicly traded, though plenty of them are big enough to become public companies if they wanted to do so.

What they do ranges widely from personnel outsourcing and chains that sell everything from furniture to burgers, autos and RVs, to high- powered data analytics firms, specialty financial service providers and construction companies. There's even a seafood processor and beer distributor in the mix.

This is the Tampa Bay Times' annual review of the major private companies based in Tampa Bay. Florida Trend, a sister magazine of the Times, just published the 225 largest private companies based in Florida. Statewide — no surprise — Publix Super Markets, based in Lakeland, remains the largest private company. Its $34 billion in annual revenues is nearly twice that of No. 2 HIG Capital Management in Miami.

We have culled that Florida Trend ranking of 225 for the 44 biggest private companies headquartered in this metro area. That represents close to 20 percent of those private firms listed statewide. Let's see who's on the rise in Tampa Bay, who's treading water and who has slipped in the latest rankings.

We also look more closely at three private firms — Power Design in St. Petersburg, Coca-Cola Beverage Florida in Tampa and Rooms To Go in Seffner — to see what makes them tick in 2017.

Power Design, St. Petersburg

What it does: national electrical contractor

Rank in Tampa Bay: No. 22.

Rank in Florida: No. 125 (Rank last year: No. 156)

Revenues: $397 million

Employees: 1,269

Why it stands out: Let's count the ways. Among the 44 private companies, it jumped 31 spots in this year's ranking from last by revenues, a strong showing of a company growing fast. Power Design's also a frequent name on "best places to work" lists ranging from the Times Top Workplace rankings to both Fortune and Inc. lists. Want to attract millennial workers? Follow the Power Design path of hiring sharp people, then training them. The company's 133,000-square-foot headquarters is known as the Grid and includes an interactive training center. Close to 70 percent of the 500 employees at the Grid take advantage of a fully equipped and staffed fitness center that includes a basketball-volleyball court, organized team sports and a pingpong room. The 22-acre campus also features a cantina, outdoor seating, and a full-time events team to organize morale-building experiences. Not bad at all for a 28-year-old firm.

Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, Tampa

What it does: Coca-Cola brand beverage distributor across Florida

Rank in Tampa Bay: No. 5.

Rank in Florida: No. 55 (New to list, not ranked last year)

Revenues: $1 billion

Employees: 4,500

Why it stands out: Few if any companies in this area have seemingly materialized overnight like this distributor of Coke-branded beverages. The firm has grown rapidly thanks to multiple mergers of smaller distributors across the Sunshine State. Now it is the third- largest privately held and fifth-largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the nation. CEO Troy Taylor, a former banker and investment executive, has helped mastermind the company's fast track. "I did not expect we'd expand this fast, but I'm embracing it," Taylor told a Tampa business audience earlier this year. One challenge Taylor's company faces is the growing health backlash against selling sugary sodas. Two prominent African-American pastors recently filed suit in D.C. Superior Court against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association. They argue soda manufacturers knowingly deceived customers about the health risks of sugary beverages — at enormous cost to their communities. Taylor has been aggressive in acknowledging Coke's sugar legacy and noting the large number of low- and zero-calorie beverage options his distribution company sells.

Rooms To Go, Seffner

What it does: Major furniture chain

Rank in Tampa Bay: No. 2.

Rank in Florida: No. 22 (Rank last year: unchanged)

Revenues: $2.2 billion

Employees: 7,000

Why it stands out: To the general population, that's an easy answer. Former supermodel Cindy Crawford and Modern Family TV star Sofia Vergara are the company's high-profile spokeswomen — each with her own line of furniture — for the giant retailer. But there's a bottom line reason, too, for its success. In the past three years, the company has added more than 1,400 retail jobs and another 350 jobs in domestic manufacturing, according to president Jeff Seaman. And the firm, which already has more than 130 stores, wants to broaden its offerings, going on the hunt to acquire an outdoor furniture retailer to jump-start a move into the category. Rooms To Go has its challenges, too. It relies on overseas manufacturing for a good portion of its furniture, and President Donald Trump's threats to make foreign trade more expensive bears close watching. In addition, Rooms To Go, like all traditional furniture retailers, is keeping a close eye on Amazon ever since it began hinting that it wants to extend its reach to housewares and furniture. Is Amazon's $13.7 billion purchase of the Whole Foods grocery chain the model for its eventual entry into the retail furniture world?